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sassoon

Vimy Ridge Ceremony - Bit of a Rant

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Iain

having watched most of the ceremonies on the BBC and the usual parading of the good and the great, it does strike me that whilst a great effort was made to include a lot of the descendants of the men was made and they were given a voice. I too thought that there was an air of the rock festival about all the events.

 

 

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sassenach

I wouldn't say "a great effort" was made. As far as I understand, it was a case of "enter the ballot, and if you're lucky you can come." I'm a descendant, but didn't "win" the ballot, so tough luck. The organisers admitted that no checks were carried out to confirm that the descendants were genuinely that.  

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Vimyboy

I am from Canada and attended the event with my family. I had really low expectations for the event given the horrible and stressful process of obtaining tickets. My low expectations were met and surpassed by the awful transportations process, the toilets, the lack of food, the lack of shade, the lack of suitable viewing areas and the lack of any control over the exit of 22,000+ people.

 

I did not get a good view of the ceremonies but we had a good time amongst ourselves and chatting with other people. I watched the ceremonies when we got home and it was cringe-worthy. Awful. We attend the Anzac Dawn Ceremony at Ypres and the unveiling of the Menin Gate Lions in Ypres in April. Both were far more professional and a real tribute to the sacrifice of their soldiers.

 

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KGB
On 7/18/2017 at 23:35, sassoon said:

 

As a Mic'Maq Canadian myself, I still did not appreciate the way the ceremony was played out and how aspects of the ceremony was quite disrespectful. I know this is a late reply but I felt that I had to mention that I was not trying to disrespect Native peoples as my great uncle (who fought and died during the Great War) was a Mic'Maq young man from Newfoundland. 

 

I was still embarrassed to see this display of so-called "commemoration". 

The Micmac were brought to Nfld to slaughter the Beotuk.

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ejwalshe

I still have yet to work up the courage to watch the (expletive-deleted) tape.

Wish I had a photo of the small sign in the park about etiquette on the hill.

Anybody else recall seeing it in years past?  I think it was removed for the event, because....

It contained a few prohibited items worth mentioning:

 

1. No music.

2. No singing.

3. No dancing.

 

Makes sense to me, but not the VAC!

Dancing on their graves...it makes me sick...sigh!

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Vimyboy

Sometimes decorum goes out the window when the events are managed by well-meaning but uninformed government servants. I was at the Last Post Ceremony at Ypres this past April when they had a New Zealand High School Rugby team in attendance. They did the Haka. I thought it was inappropriate for a memorial ceremony.

 

Per Wikipedia - The haka (plural haka, as in Māori, so in English) is a traditional war crywar dance, or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand.[1] 

 

Canada - please consult with Australian Veteran Affairs on how to conduct a military, memorial ceremony that honours the sacrifice of all people in a war. The only singing they did was a beautiful a cappella rendition of "In Flanders Fields."

 

 

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Herekawe

Hi

 

It is a bit of an odd one the haka, at that location, as the NZers are remembered up at Tyne Cott or at Buttes New British Cemetery, rather than on the Menin Gate.

 

J

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nigelcave
58 minutes ago, Herekawe said:

Hi

 

It is a bit of an odd one the haka, at that location, as the NZers are remembered up at Tyne Cott or at Buttes New British Cemetery, rather than on the Menin Gate.

 

J

Quite. On the other hand, the Menin Gate is the 'Imperial' memorial and there is an (original) plaque about the NZ missing on the gate pointing out that they are commemorated at Polygon Wood and Tyne Cot

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ejwalshe

Ah, for the love of Revisionism!

 

"An historian is not a scribe, but a judge of the evidence that is brought before him. He is his own final authority. He is not judged by, but sits in judgment of, history. Whatever evidence does not conform to the commonly accepted beliefs of the age or community in which he lives he summarily rejects!  History, in other words, is based only on that part of evidence which agrees with the prevailing opinions of the society in which a historian lives…. Historians admit it!" - Dr. Herman L. Hoeh: Compendium of World History.

 

 

 

 

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ejwalshe

At a presentation given by Tim Cook this week (his new book on Vimy), and he understood his audience very well, in regards to his comments on the ceremony this year.

 

A gentleman in the first row, had the best and perhaps most diplomatic comments...

 

"I was at the ceremony this year, and the 90th ceremony in 2007," he said, as he went on to describe the beautiful, poignant and respectful ceremony of 2007.

 

Everyone understood when he was finished why he did not say anything at all about 2017.

 

I feel a lot better...but would still love to see what kind of 'war risk bonus' the VAC Project Manager for the ceremony will be claiming this year.

 

Shame.

 

 

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ejwalshe

"Shame shame on you!" Hundreds complain to Veterans Affairs about disorganized Vimy Ridge ceremony

http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/shame-shame-on-you-hundreds-complain-to-veterans-affairs-about-disorganized-vimy-ridge-ceremony

Canadian visitors were stranded, injured and left sweltering in the sun with no water on April 9. They had to urinate on the grass for lack of toilets

“A total disaster.”

 

“Appalling.”

 

“A mosh pit and Woodstock combined.”

 

These were among the withering reviews received by Veterans Canada this year to its hosting of 25,000 Canadians in France for the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, one of the most famed military battles in Canadian history.

 

It was a solemn occasion on April 9, the culmination of years of planning to make the event go smoothly. The ceremony was in the style of a Remembrance Day event, but bigger, with speeches, thousands of empty boots to symbolize the men killed, some interpretive dancing and a live TV broadcast in Canada.

 

Concerts and sports events handle similar crowds all the time. They bus people in, open lots of gates, supply portable toilets and water, give clear directions and let everyone go home when the event is over.

 

However, documents obtained through an access-to-information request showed how visitors who travelled all the way from Canada were stranded, injured and left sweltering in the sun with no water. They were forced to urinate on the grass for lack of toilets and finally penned in enclosures for two hours or more after dignitaries — including princes Charles, Harry and William and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — drove away past them.

 

Seniors were pushed and shoved against metal gates by overcrowding. Some students gave up waiting and walked across the battlefield still containing some unexploded shells. Families were separated as darkness fell.

 

Many later wrote to Veterans Affairs Canada. While those in front of the monument agreed it had been a moving ceremony, thousands at the back could not see or hear and the logistics of handling 25,000 people broke down badly.

 

The visitors’ letters — 397 pages of them — tell of heat exhaustion, thirst, full bladders and fear. Here are some excerpts, with the senders’ names removed by Veterans Affairs.

 

• One woman wrote in simple detail of the danger to seniors caught in the exit crowd, waiting for buses to the hotel. “When the ceremony ended at 6 p.m., we stood in a solid uncontrolled mass of people, crushed and pushed for over 3 hours until a shuttle bus would be available for a small number to charge ahead. A person near me fainted but did not slump over due to the close mass of people …

 

“After being pushed, shoved and crushed against a metal gate, I was separated from my husband and friends, on the opposite side of the gate, in the dark, with no one immediately near by who could speak my language to offer help. It has been described by most as cattle being herded onto cattle trains.

 

“By the time we reached our hotel at 11:30 p.m., we were so tired, injured and upset that eating a meal was impossible for most of us.”

Many in her group had to get up the following day at 3 a.m. to go to the airport. “A few of us seniors required wheelchairs at the airport due to the unfortunate incidents at the Vimy site.” Her letter is calm right to the end, when she concludes: “SHAME SHAME ON YOU!”

 

• Another woman described the wait for buses this way: “Finally the crowd broke through the barriers. We were liked caged animals. (Name deleted) felt afraid and claustrophobic. It was just luck that this crowd was respectful of where we were and managed to keep calm.” She was separated from her husband early in the afternoon when he went to look for food and was not allowed to return to his original place. They found each other after the ceremony.

 

“This to me is unacceptable. We should not have been separated in such a large crowd of people,” she wrote.

 

“In the end, it appeared to us that the ceremony was mainly concerned (with) and driven by television coverage. Crowd control and crowd security was an afterthought. We felt very unsafe during the exit and during the wait for the shuttle bus.”

 

• A Canadian educational tour company called Education First brought a group of 9,000 visitors, most of them students. It wrote a formal complaint to Minister Kent Hehr: “While the visit was an honour, “sadly, that honour was diminished by extremely disappointing event management by Veterans Affairs Canada.”

 

It said that “provisions for safety, basic human needs and crowd control were dangerously inadequate,” and “some of our participants were injured departing the site.”

 

It added there was a real danger of trampling and there were two-hour waits for toilets.

Provisions for safety, basic human needs and crowd control were dangerously inadequate

 
 

During a full year of trying to contact Veterans Affairs before the event, the letter says, “we … were repeatedly met with no response or with empty assurances that all would become clear at a later date.” The company asks the minister for an apology and says it will abandon plans to participate in Juno 75 celebrations (in 2019) unless there is “a full review of VAC’s dysfunctional planning” so that the company feels safer about the next event.

 

A spokesman for the tour company said Friday that the injuries were somewhere “in the tens” and several involved heat stroke, while others occurred during the mass exit. As for the apology, he said the company was “satisfied with what we’ve heard back from VAC at this point. Clearly there are more conversations to be had. But VAC has expressed regret about the concerns we raised and has committed to working with us to improve moving forward.” (Juno 75 discussions are on again.)

 

 “Talk about a mosh pit and Woodstock combined,” another letter said.

 

• This was another visitor’s entire email: “Wow, you knew how many people would have to be in the area south of the memorial and you could not get the sound right? Really sad that a large portion of the crowd, who travelled here at their own expense, could not hear or hardly see anything. Really, really sad. My tax dollars at work.”

 

• Another visitor: “Good service. But the exit was a TOTAL disaster. It took three hours just to leave the grounds. No organization, no one in charge and no communication to the crowd. Canada Veterans Affairs (sic) who planned the event were a disgrace to all of Canada. Everyone I talked to when leaving said the same thing. Not a happy camper.”And the visitors weren’t the only ones upset. Comments from 16 Canadian students working as Vimy guides showed they were all frustrated by the confusion as they tried to help visitors without help from Veterans Affairs. And they said plans were still not finalized by the day of the actual event. Again their names were deleted.

 

“The Overseas Events Team did an appalling job,” one wrote. “THOUSANDS of Canadians and others were let down by the sheer incompetence of the planning committee.” The temporary security staff were “about as useful as a bag of hammers” and many of them abandoned their posts, the guide added.

 

“As someone without a radio, I was truly stranded with the guests and had no way to help them,” one wrote.

 

“We were left responsible for thousands of people without support,” another said. “Being the only identifiable employees became almost dangerous as people yelled at us and threatened us.”

 

One guide said they were told afterward to stay positive, which made the guides feel their experience didn’t matter. A saying later developed among the staff: “We don’t talk about April 9th.”

 

Bathrooms were key, the guides all agreed. One wrote: “You cannot prepare this type of event and not prepare for the necessities.”

 

 

___________________________________________________________

My comment:  Not enough letters about why the ceremony itself was in poor taste.  
The comment (by the National Post) "It was a solemn occasion on April 9" is contradictory.
It was supposed to have been a solemn occasion on April 9.
Disappointed the VAC project manager for the event was not named, instead the blame is placed on unnamed members of the committee.
Slagging former VAC Minister Kent Hehr is useless - again, the blame is owned by the civil servants working at VAC, not elected politicians.

Edited by ejwalshe

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Canadian J

Jaw dropping.

 

I sure hope those folks have a chance to go back and experience Vimy again, alone, in the morning and during the off season; that's when you go, and that's when you go to get that rotten taste out of your mouth from the last time you went on Apr. 9, 2017. 

 

That wasn't Vimy, that was a complete sideshow that completely robbed those folks of the peaceful, cathartic experience that Vimy should be. How sad.

 

- J

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ejwalshe

Here he is (Brigadier-General (Ret'd) Mike Jorgensen)...responsible for this fiasco, and yet he's only now becoming aware?  

 

That is, what he says anyway...

 

What a pile of excrement...now blaming it on space age electric toilets?

 

I think they all failed math in high school....20,000 people on lower terrace / 13 toilets = 1538 people per toilet.

 

2 minutes each?  Would take 51 hours before everyone had one chance to go to the bathroom.

 

They are still taking us for idiots.

 

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/vimy-revisited-veterans-affairs-deeply-saddened-by-bad-experience-blames-french-toilets

 

Pardon me for exaggerating..."as 25,000 people shared about 40 toilets."

 

Let's try that again....25,000 people  / 40 toilets = 625 people per toilet.

 

2 minutes each?  Would take 21 hours before everyone had one chance to go to the bathroom.

 

I'm such a complainer and cry-baby!

 

Edited by ejwalshe

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Canadian J
11 hours ago, ejwalshe said:

Here he is...responsible for this fiasco, and yet he's only now becoming aware?  

 

That is, what he says anyway...

 

What a pile of excrement...now blaming it on space age electric toilets?

 

I think they all failed math in high school....20,000 people on lower terrace / 13 toilets = 1538 people per toilet.

 

2 minutes each?  Would take 51 hours before everyone had one chance to go to the bathroom.

 

They are still taking us for idiots.

 

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/vimy-revisited-veterans-affairs-deeply-saddened-by-bad-experience-blames-french-toilets

 

Pardon me for exaggerating..."as 25,000 people shared about 40 toilets."

 

Let's try that again....25,000 people  / 40 toilets = 625 people per toilet.

 

2 minutes each?  Would take 21 hours before everyone had one chance to go to the bathroom.

 

I'm such a complainer and cry-baby!

 

This! All of THIS right here! 

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ejwalshe

It's just what I thought too, J...what a terrible way to see the monument for the first time.

 

I thought perhaps those who stuck around for a few days might have a better look later in the week, but when I returned the following week, there was still literally tons of garbage yet to be removed.

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ejwalshe

From the conclusion of: Summary Report and Lessons Learned from 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge Overseas Events, 30 June 2017:

 

As outlined above, the successful delivery of the Vimy 100 overseas program was based in large measure on the effort dedicated to planning.

 

Successful delivery?  I kid you not.

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ejwalshe

There were 25 student guides employed by VAC during the ceremony.

I have read the reports from 17 of these 25 students.

They are very consistent...the students all felt abandoned by VAC during the ceremony.

They noted that VAC personnel purposely removed their jackets in the morning so that they could not be identified by the public.

This left 25 students as the front line defense, and they suffered a lot...so much so that one of the chaperones commented that night that the students were beginning to exhibit signs of PTSD.

They were also promised they would be able to view the ceremony from the lower terrace.

A few of the students on the upper level made their way to go below shortly before the ceremony began, and were berated by the public for doing so.  

Fearing for their safety, the other students chose to remain above where they noted they could not see, nor hear the ceremony, but at least they had not "run the gauntlet."

Requests from the students to their superiors went unanswered (those that did have a walkie-talkie noted they were useless as no one would respond).

While there were many, many Zeros at the ceremony, there were 25 Heroes who never abandoned their posts under the most trying of circumstances.

 

Who is speaking up for them now?

 

This all is just the tip of the iceberg...
 

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ejwalshe

The iceberg is melting fast...I missed the news earlier last month that the investigation into allegations regarding the former Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada has concluded, and cleared the former minister of any wrongdoing.

 

He has agreed to not seek another position in cabinet, and admits he has to "clean up his act."  (My words).

 

No mention whatsoever of his despicable conduct in the Vimy Ceremony Debacle.

 

Therefore, the Liberal Party of Canada will be claiming victory in the back rooms and no one will be held accountable for this travesty.

 

This has everything to do with Canada's shameful treatment of our Veterans today, and for over a century.

 

Glad I can get this off my chest in this forum - I am prevented by moderators from doing so in a certain Canadian forum (too political).

 

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